From Concept to Consent: Public Financing of Elections Gets Final Green Light from the Council

In a remarkable progression, the concept of public financing of elections went from being a concept, to a bill introduced by nine members in March, to unanimous passage after debate on the first of two required votes, to a second of two votes so uncontroversial that it passed unanimously without any mention as part of the consent agenda. Advocates waited patiently through two meetings before hearing the low-key unanimous voice approval of the consent agenda, including the Fair Elections bill and dozens of others.

In brief, candidates who opt into public financing under the new legislation will be required to hit a fundraising target via only small contributions (this number will vary based on the office sought). Once that number has been met and certified, the candidate will receive a base-level grant of funding, half at the time of certification, and half upon making it onto the ballot. Donations from DC residents would then be matched on a 5-to-1 basis. In exchange for receiving public financing, the maximum allowable donation for candidates would be significantly decreased, and contributions would only be permitted from individuals.

Another measure on the agenda that attracted its own cheering section was the Disability Services Reform Act, which restores the civil rights of those receiving services through the Department of Disability Services. Previously, in order to receive residential services, these individuals needed to be civilly committed—a requirement that existed nowhere but in the District. The righting of the wrong embodied in the prior legislation was roundly applauded by those impacted.

Two other popular measures receiving the second of two required votes as part of the consent agenda were the “Dining with Dogs” measure allowing dogs to eat on restaurant patios, and the ceremonial renaming of the street in front of the Russian Embassy in honor of slain democracy activist Boris Nemtsov.

Earlier in the meeting, ceremonial resolutions were presented in honor of women’s heart health holiday National Wear Red Day, outgoing DC Solicitor Todd Kim, National Boy Scouts Day, the championship Marshall Heights Bison Pee Wee Football team, and longtime activist Sylvia Robinson.

Measures introduced at this meeting, if they survive the entire legislative process, would:

  • Increase the availability of healthy foods in District parks
  • Expand the maximum loan amount, and establish a minimum benefit floor, for the Home Purchase Assistance Program
  • Allow homeowners with homes damaged by inattentive neighboring contractors to seek not just in-kind but also cash damages
  • Eliminate the requirement for beautifying door and windows to be installed on blighted properties in order for them to be categorized as simply vacant
  • Decouple the District and federal estate taxes so that DC would not be required to follow the recent cuts made to this tax on the federal level
  • Require the preparation of a Senior strategic plan
  • Establish an Averse Childhood Experience task force
  • Clarify the rules surrounding athletic trainers
  • Overhaul and update the District’s assisted living legislation
  • Conduct a study of Seniors’ needs and capacities
  • Create a nonprofit incubator startup
  • Initiate a youth mentoring initiative

For a list of all votes taken at the meeting, please click here.